For those students interested in a liberal arts

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be the most favorable. For those students interested in a liberal arts degree, how do they choose public or private? Dr. Richard R. Spies at Princeton describes to us that the answer deals with preference. He mentions that the best way to see what school choice best fits a prospective student “is to examine the decision-making process of individual students” (19). Those who tend to get lost in the crowd and work best in small, connected communities would favor a private liberal arts education. Ultimately, this academic environment proves to be the most desirable for many prospective students. With this confirmation we can now analyze the main question: will the more expensive education still be worth the private education for these students, or should they avoid the high expenses and attend a public college? Since it is seemingly impossible to quantify the dollar value of knowledge, deciding if a private degree is worth the expense is not so straightforward. Parents of students that would clearly benefit from a private education over a public one would want to know if the extra twenty thousand dollar sticker price will be worth the long-term investment. One way to find an answer
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5 to this dilemma is to research earnings made a year after graduation. One of HLN’s acclaimed financial experts stated that “if you must borrow, never borrow more for a 4-year degree than the entry level salary you expect to earn after having received that degree” (Howard). So what starting salary can a student with a private degree be expecting just out of college? According to a 2011 SmartMoney study that researched recent college graduates, of twenty-nine private schools studied the average salary two years out of college was $48,910. Of twenty-one public colleges studied, the average salary two years after receiving a degree was $48,486 (Chad and Heimer). This study shows that public and private graduates are, in general, equally successful in the workplace (note that the study included all Ivy League schools among the list of private institutions and many state universities for public schools). With the knowledge that college graduates are making approximately $50,000 just out of college, HLN’s Howard would advise parents to only accept college packages that will leave their children with less debt than that number. So, how many colleges’ sticker prices would follow these guidelines? Perhaps none. Most prices of four year institutions would leave families close to six figures in debt. Parents often ask how anyone could survive with this price. Most families cannot, and this is where the world of financial aid comes into play. Based on the financial aid package of the college a student is accepted at, families can assess how they would fare financially after the four years of undergraduate education. Financial aid is getting better and better too: while tuition “rose by 81 percent, more than double the inflation rate, between 1993 and 2004,” financial aid “has grown more than tuition — by 135 percent over the same period” (Glater). The yearly rising sticker costs of higher education tend to leave middle-class parents wide-eyed. However, the rate at
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6 which financial aid is increasing is even greater. This fact plays out to be more helpful to those
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